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Comic Relief: Chocolate Theology

Primary motivators of human behavior: hunger, thirst, pain, pleasure, self-esteem, sexual desire, and chocolate.
1998This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

The mysterious and mystical theobromine (literally, "the food of the gods"), which is commonly called chocolate, is a substance deserving of thoughtful and tasteful theological analysis. As one of the primary motivators of human behavior (hunger, thirst, pain, pleasure, self-esteem, sexual desire, and chocolate), it is a force deserving ontological, theological, historical, ethical, and relational reflection.

Ontologically, chocolate raises profoundly disturbing questions: Does not chocolate offer natural revelation of the goodness of the Creator just as chilies disclose a divine sense of humor? Is the human born with an innate longing for chocolate? Does the notion of chocolate preclude the concept of free will? If chocolate is a foretaste of heaven, what does it mean that chocolate is freely available to all?

Theologically, the creation of chocolate demonstrates both the unity and the diversity of humanity. Wherever you taste it, in every country of the world, it is immediately recognizable. Other things, in every cuisine, are just food, but chocolate is chocolate. At the same time, each country, or culture, makes its own distinctive chocolate: French chocolate has a bitter bouquet; Belgian, a whisper of hazelnut; Swiss, a hint of condensed milk; English, a slight burnt-sugar finish; American, an undertone of peanuts; Dutch, a silken waxy texture; Indian, a trace of spices; Japanese, a touch of soy; Russian, a rumor of cabbage. Yet wherever chocolate is made, chocolate is chocolate. And any month that contains the letter a, e, i, o, or u is the proper time to share it with others.

Historically, the discovery of chocolate by the Mayans and Aztecs dates to the dawn of time. The drink they made from the beans of the cacao tree, ...

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